Munster boost as Quinlan returns ahead of schedule

ALAN QUINLAN could return to bolster Munster’s Celtic League bid, a month ahead of his expected return from injury.

Quinlan has been out for nearly seven months after sustaining a cruciate knee ligament injury, but he has been included in Munster’s 24-man squad for tomorrow night’s big game with Neath/Swansea Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.

And Quinlan is ready for action: “I have been back in training for the last four or five weeks; I have been given the all-clear medically and everything seems to be fine. I’m looking forward to getting back and getting some game time,” he said yesterday.

But Munster’s delight at welcoming Quinlan back has to be tempered by the fact that they have injuries in other areas and have had to call up, on licence, UCC hooker Tim Ryan to join the squad for the first of two games over the next six days.

Jerry Flannery has been ruled out, but is expected to join up with the squad prior to Tuesday’s match with Llanelli at Stradey Park. He will be accompanied by Federico Pucciariello (whose third Celtic League yellow card earned him a one-match ban), Peter Stringer and David Wallace, both recovering from injury, and Trevor Hogan.

That incoming group may allow Garryowen prop Damian Varley return to Ireland in time to link up with Garryowen against Shannon in the AIB League semi-final.

While Quinlan hopes to make an immediate return, there is still doubt about the fitness of Marcus Horan and John Kelly. Both are said to be making progress for calf and shoulder injuries respectively, but both are also doubtful for places in the Heineken Cup final squad.

Meanwhile, Brian O’Driscoll will be back in action for Leinster’s Celtic League trip to Glasgow on Sunday. In a further boost, Reggie Corrigan will join the squad and is expected to play. However, Cameron Jowitt remains a doubtful starter through injury.

Leinster coach Michael Cheika is focusing everything now on the Celtic League after their departure from the Heineken Cup and his side continue to set the pace.

“We’ve got better as the season has gone on away from home. We’ve also had some good away wins in the Heineken Cup. I suppose it’s about knowing what you have to do. We’re in a decent position (this weekend) because with the game on Sunday evening we’ll know the other results,” he said.

Leinster face a 9pm kick off for the second time in an away match in the last month. Cheika says it shouldn’t be disruptive, but none of the players like to start a game at that time in the evening. It doesn’t do much to attract fans to the games either.

Cheika’s main concern is to continue the drive towards winning the Celtic League. “If anything, my belief in how the game should be played has been reinforced (after the Munster game). Once it’s perfected, it will be very difficult for opposition teams to break down. We now know our identity moving forward but I don’t think we’ve achieved consistency yet.”

MUNSTER squad (v Neath/Swansea Ospreys): Forwards (13). J. Hayes, E. McGovern, T. Ryan (UCC), D. Fogarty, D. Varley, M. O’Driscoll, D. O’Callaghan, P. O’Connell, S. Keogh, J. O’Sullivan, D. Leamy, A. Quinlan, A. Foley (captain).

Backs (11): C. Cullen, A. Horgan, I. Dowling, S. Payne, T. Halstead, G. Connolly, M. Lawlor, R. O’Gara, J. Manning, T. O’Leary, M. Prendergast.

LEINSTER squad (v Glasgow Warriors): Forwards (14): W Green, R Corrigan, R McCormack, E Byrne, B Jackman, B Blaney, M O’Kelly, A Byrnes, B Gissing, C Jowitt, N Ronan, K Gleeson, J Heaslip, E Miller.

Backs (11): G Easterby, B O’Riordan, F Contepomi, J Hepworth, G Dempsey, B O’Driscoll, K Lewis, S Horgan, D Hickie, G D’Arcy, R Kearney.

Referee: H Watkins (WRU).

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